June 22, 1995
Several of you were good enough to help verify the existence of the Planters Hotel in Perry. So far I have come across only one person, Mrs. Kitty Foster, who actually remembers the hotel when it stood majestically on Cedar street across the alley east of the Foucart Building, which once was the home of the First National Bank.
Kitty was only a little girl, of course, back in the early 1900s, when she would make an occasional train trip to Tulsa on the Frisco Line with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. W C. Marshall, to visit relatives. Her grandfather, Mike Marshall, lived on East Cedar street. Her parents, the W C. Marshalls, lived on East Birch street and the Frisco depot was on Seventh street, just south of the present YMCA building. That made a pretty long walk home after getting off the train, so to avoid that the Marshalls would ask to be let off at the Cedar street crossing where passengers were discharged for dinner in the Planters Hotel Restaurant. "It saved us several blocks," Mrs. Foster recalls, "and I always liked to look at that pretty hotel building anyway." As we all know now, the hotel burned down in 1908 but it was a mighty popular place in its day.
Mrs. Foster also recalls that the Perry fire station of that day was next door to the Planters Hotel, on the west side, and that the fire engines were pulled by .a team of white horses. It was great fun to peer into the fire station and watch those beautiful animals being groomed or grazing on grain being fed to them by the firemen. With so many wooden buildings in the young city, the fire fighters had many blazes to battle. Some of them wiped out entire blocks or more. Even the hotel right next door could not be saved.
Mrs. Foster now resides in an apartment at the Green Valley Nursing Home. Her memory is sharp and she stays abreast of the news and other current affairs every day. It was good to visit with her.
Some readers also called or wrote, wondering if references to the Planters Hotel might have been mistakenly intended for the St. Louis Hotel, which once stood at 716 Cedar on the present location of Dr. Brian Busby's dental clinic. The St. Louis Hotel, a three-story red brick building, was operated by Mr. and Mrs. John H. Vandenberg and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Schemmer, and later by Sam and Marie Gardner. It featured a dining room where family-style meals were served, and that had a great appeal to traveling men who passed through here regularly in the early days.
The historic St. Louis Hotel was unoccupied and owned by Ellis-Jirous American Legion post when it was purchased on May 6,1964, by Dr. Bill Busby and Harry Hughes. The building was razed, but the bricks were salvaged by the two men. There were plenty of bricks to go around. Harry says the three-story building's exterior walls were three bricks thick. Part of them were used in the construction of Dr. Busby's dental clinic around 1970. Bill Busby's son, Dr. Brian Busby DDS, joined him in the clinic in 1983 and at that time the building was expanded. More St. Louis Hotel bricks were used for the addition. Harry and his wife, Mabel, also used some of the bricks for the construction of their home at 1701 Park Lane, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rupp, in Hughes-Busby addition, on the north side of Perry.
That still didn't use up the supply of bricks from the sturdy old hotel. "About ten more homes in Perry were built with those bricks," Harry recalls, "and at least that many more homes in Oklahoma City also used them." The St. Louis Hotel obviously was intended to last a long, long time.
Mrs. Bertha Beier, 1018 Fir, thought the Planters Hotel pictured on that postcard which appeared with this column last month might actually have been located in another town with the same name as ours. She remembers once when her family ordered some baby chickens by mail, they were erroneously sent to "Perry, Missouri," so she thought that might also have been the home of the Planters. Another reader wondered if maybe the Elite Hotel, once operated by Walt Kehres and family on the north side of the square, was the one in question.
A note about early-day Perry hotels also arrived from my friend, Jo Wollard Garten, of Ponca City. The Wollard family goes 'way back in Perry, and Jo has helped me out on previous occasions in local matters concerning historical accuracy. Jo didn't have a sure answer about the Planters Hotel (which we finally learned was on Cedar street near the railroad tracks), but she did pass along a bit about the early days. She wrote:
"My parents (Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Wollard) were married April 15, 1902, in Lawson, Mo. After spending their wedding night in a hotel in Kansas City, they came by Santa Fe train to Perry where they were met by his buddies. Among them were Dr. F. C. Seids, John Hansen and John Knox, who took them by -- was it called a hack? It was like a small horse drawn streetcar with the opening in the back and two benches that faced each other.
"Mother said that they went to the hotel, which I understood was just north of Joe's Smoke House. Daddy became critically ill with some kind of childhood disease and they had to stay in the hotel much longer than planned."
The hotel they stayed in may have been the one operated by Orlando Walkling. It was a two-story frame building on the west side of Sixth street, about where Vicky Maine Beier's law office is located. That would place it north of the Smoke House, which was in Roy Morris' building. Regarding the wedding, Henry S. Johnston was the best man. He later appointed Mr. Wollard to the state board of affairs when Mr. Johnston was elected governor of Oklahoma. Mrs. Garten says that she and Ella Merry Hayman keep up with Perry affairs by reading The Journal as does Jo's sister, Mary Lee Campbell of Vinita, whose late husband, D. B. Campbell, was managing editor of The Journal before buying The Vinita Journal, which he published until several years ago. Mrs. Garten and her husband, Roy, and Mrs. Hayman live in Ponca City's Westminster Village.
My thanks to everyone who helped us pin down some information about the Planters Hotel and those other territorial era Perry hostelries. It was like taking a step back in time to catch a glimpse of Perry as it was in another era. This subject was interesting to many readers, and we'll probably have additional information on it before long.